Evanston aldermen asked the City Manager this morning for information on possible alternatives to the manager’s plan for a $5 increase in parking fines.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said most parking fines are now $10, although there are a variety of higher fines as well. He project the increase would raise $530,000 in new revenue for the city, helping close a projected $2.4 million budget deficit.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he’d like to see an analysis of how much could be raised if the city instead increased parking meter rates downtown from 75-cents to $1 an hour.
That rate would match the fee already charged in the city’s downtown garages.
But Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who owns a pet supply store downtown, said she is concerned about the possible impact of such a rate increase on downtown businesses.
She suggested considering extending the hours for meter enforcement outside of downtown from the current 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. — to match the hours that now apply downtown.
At the City Council’s first meeting on the proposed budget unveiled by the manager Oct. 7, none of the aldermen directly questionned his proposal for an 8 percent increase in property taxes.
But they did raise a variety of other issues.
Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, asked for a report on how fringe benefit levels for city workers in Evanston compare to levels in other municipalites, at non-profits and in the general business marketplace.
She said staff’s estimate that benefits in Evanston average 30 percent of total compensation seemed very high compared to other places, which she said typically have fringe benefit costs of 23 or 24 percent.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, raised questions about a staff plan to gradually draw down two special purpose funds set up over a decade ago.
The compensated absences fund was established to cover costs when long-time employees who had stored up unused vacation days retired. And the IMRF reserve fund was intended to cover sudden variations in payments the city might owe to the state municipal employees retirement fund.
But, Marty Lyons, the assistant city manager, said the city has neither added money to nor taken money from either of those funds for at least the past five years.
Bobkiewicz now is proposing to gradually close out those funds over the next five years, adding about $500,000 in spendable revenue to the city’s budget in each of those years.
Wynne voiced concern that that practice seemed to be a variation on using one-time revenue to meet continuing expenses.
But staff explained that the city has renegotiated employee contracts to reduce the amount of vacation time employees can bank, and has also found that new, younger employees — especially in the police and fire departments — are more likely than previous cohorts to choose to use all their vacation time.
That, combined with the city’s experience in recent years of being able to make the IMRF and compensated absence payments from the general fund each year, persuaded Bobkiewicz that those funds are no longer needed.
Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl suggested the city should look at increasing the fee for having a full-size, 95-gallon trash container as a way of encouraging more residents to switch to the smaller, 65-gallon ones and to recycle more — which would reduce landfill charges to the city for disposing of the trash.
That cost contributes to what Lyons said is expected to be a $1.8 million deficit in the solid waste fund next year, though previous fee changes and increase in the share of trash-hauling work that’s contracted out have reduced the subsidy amount from $3 million in the recent past.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asked for a memo from the legal department on whether residents could be legally required to recycle — a move that might be a precursor to creating a system of fines for failing to participate in the recycling program.
The aldermen are scheduled to hold another special meeting on the budget on Oct. 29, at which they’ll hear public comment from residents.
They’re scheduled to adopt the budget Nov. 28.
Fines are too low
I am surprised parking fines are so low! Surely it costs around $10 just to issue and process a parking fine. Also that is not much of a deterrent when compared to the cost of parking legally. Fines should start at $50.
People should recycle, but inforcing recycling sounds like more trouble than it is worth. I think an education campaign would be more effective at reducing landfill costs.
"Bobkiewicz now is proposing to gradually close out those funds over the next five years, adding about $500,000 in spendable revenue to the city's budget in each of those years.
Wynne voiced concern that that practice seemed to be a variation on using one-time revenue to meet continuing expenses."
Solution: Use the money to make a long term investment in future revenue. For example, put it towards the new Crown Center ice surfaces, which will double fee revenue over the old Crown Center because of larger capacity.
High Fines Deter Business Not Necessarily Parking Infractions
An assumption behind support for high fines is that the offender is a scofflaw for whom high penalties may alter their behavior. This is often false. Often – overstaying the intended time is mere accident despite the best intentions to comply with time restrictions.
I'm a real estate agent who travels into a number of area communities. Recently, I spent an entire day with a client running around looking at various properties in Chicago. I spent over $26 at payboxes throughout the day. We wasted a fair amount of time each time we parked walking the half block to and from the nearest paybox to purchase a sticker and place it on the dash. Viewing a dozen properties in the City took us over twice as long as viewing a dozen properties in the burbs. Near the end of our tour, my client liked a particular City property more than any other they viewed that day. We ended up staying longer in that property to discuss with the seller's agent its features and issues about the association. We lost track of time – and by the time we returned to the car – 15 minutes past the expiration of the sticker – I had a $50 ticket for an expired paybox sticker. My client – new to the area, and trying to decide which community to live in – was so shocked by the amount of the fine, they decided against buying a home in the neighborhood and opted instead for suburban options where parking policies seem more reasonable to them. It wasn't the sole factor – but it was a deciding factor.
We weren't scofflaws – we tried complying all day long. We were a victim of circumstances but penalized as scofflaws.
For Evanston to mimic Chicago with its excessive fees and fines would be to drive people from Evanston to other communities. Already people further up the shore from Evanston won't consider Evanston housing because of the perceived high taxes and fees here; in their experience, many business areas (and malls) provide free parking.
It happens often near my office. A client parks in a 2 hour zone and intends to return from viewing properties within 2 hours. We take longer than anticipated for any number of reasons (seller's not ready for us, other agents late, staying longer than anticipated in a house) and return from our tour after 2 hours only to find a ticket on my client's car. Local neighborhoods prohibit non-resident parking; meters provide even stricter limits, and there is no parking lot for the office space rented by our business – meaning the client has no other option but the 2 hour spaces. So someone who didn't set out to break rules is penalized for trying to do business in town – or is required to limit their time doing business.
My favorite is trying to show properties in neighborhoods where no parking for non-residents is allowed. Often I've gotten tickets while parked in front of a house for sale while inside showing it to a client. As the buyer's agent – I don't know and never meet the seller. While it might be nice if the seller provided parking passes – they often don't have them. So the choice we face as buyers is to either pass on viewing the home or risk the ticket. We risk it and often lose.
We are an unfriendly community for doing business.
I get stuck paying either my parking fines or those of my clients (as a matter of customer service) to the tune of several hundred dollars a year … not because we aim to be scofflaws; but because the circumstances are such that the parking restrictions are unrealistic for reasonable activities. This is on top of paying hundreds of dollars in parking fees. I pay the most to Evanston, Chicago, and Oak Park. I pay virtually nothing in Skokie, Wilmette, and Glenview.
Taken to its logical extreme, if the goal is compliance with parking fees, and if it's assumed high fines result in 100% compliance, then the city's reliance on fine income seems illogical for the policy of high fines would lead to loss of fine income – with modestly higher fee income (but that doesn't account for the loss of those who would bypass Evanston altogether.)
As a community – what is the purpose of fines? Compliance with parking rules? Or extra income to the City? How hot can you heat the water before you kill the lobster?
Agree Wally is on the wrong track
Wally is not in touch with reality of the fee issue, some how he believes that there are thousands of residents not paying the fees. As usually our council members have not asked for all the facts other than Wally's hear say.
To buy a city sticker you must pay all your parking tickets, so what the purpose of the new camera system? Basically they were stating to get more fines in 2 hour zones.
I agree with you over ticketing can have a very negative impact in business zones. People going to dinner and coming out and getting a ticket, may make them choose another suburb to take their business.
The city departments in many case are not competent. Giving some one a ticket for parking over a line at a meter when all the cars in the row are over a foot, creates a negative impact.
One year my wife was ticketed on Central during the Christmas shopping season, coming back to her car with the expired meter, The meter person was putting the ticket on the car, she was mad and told she would stop shopping on central street. Yes they could write a ticket, yes her meter was expired, but as the other poster noted if you make things unpleasant in business district people will stop coming.
The mayor and council members think they want to increase revenues by bringing others to their city court, Wally replaced the judges and removed them to ones that will collect fees, This is clearly not in the public interest.
The Mayor and council members are hypocrites they passed a cell phone ordinance that will fine the average citizens but they are not subject to the fines. Recently public elected official rumor has it a stopped given a pass on this and also had expired plates and was given a pass.
Council members and Mayor need to be reminded they can be subject to the same set of laws they want to enforce on us, even if the city employees want to give them a break ( is the cartoon about a certain Mayor and her dog at the ecology center )
Enforcing Ordinances is fine over aggressive enforcement for the purpose of fee collection has many hidden issues that could have worst impacts, than Wally thinks.
24% property tax increase likely over the next two years!
It appears to me the council members have bought into the 8% property tax increase! Given the problem doubles in the next cycle we are talking about 16% property tax increase. Bill is correct none of them today spoke about the 8% increase. Staff is going to tell you the effect is really 3% on your total tax bill, but if you add in the 2013 tax increase you are now talking a 10% increase in two years on your total tax bill – and that is not peanuts. We are talking layoffs of over 75 employees to get the tax increase down to 3% over the next two years, the council does not want to do this, so be prepared to pay alot more. The council also spoke of the fact they can not lay off police officers since we have a crime problem, although they did not quite come out and say that. This is the first time I have actually hear them say we have a crime problem, the city council has not talked about Evanston crime problem in years! With leadership like the Mayors who think by adding a fee to larger trash cans, is the answer – we are doomed to pay the 10% increase over the next two years!
Don't you think the citizens of Evanston are paying enough in taxes? You are running people out of town with all of your fines and increases. You ought to be thinking about how to save the City not keep doing your "nickel and diming".
I just moved from Evanston a few months ago, to a suburb just a few miles away. We don't come back to Evanston unless we have to because the traffic and parking is such a nightmare. Elsewhere parking is free for a limited time, and the shops are just as good, and generally traffic is easier.
Remember the words of Yogi Berra….
We don't come back to Evanston unless we have to because the traffic and parking is such a nightmare.
?That's right. As Yogi Berra would say: "Nobody goes to Evanston anymore, it's too crowded."
These are all really good comments
All of the above posts should be required reading for every Evanstonian!
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